Carbon market hype could slow down local efforts to industrialise

The Africa Climate Summit came and went. African states undertook to take a common position during the COP 28 global meeting to be held in the United Arab Emirates in a few months’ time.

Pledges, which stood at $26 billion, were made in support of Africa’s switch to clean energy. Not much for the challenge.

Kenya’s President William Ruto stood out, harnessing his oratory skills to distinguish himself as a major voice for Africa on this climate issue.

But one gets the impression that the hyped debate on the carbon market could divert Africa’s efforts to industrialise and mitigate climate change.

Yes, the world has a huge problem in its hands. Nevertheless, Africa could lose time and opportunity to advance its climate mitigation measures while awaiting financial help from the big polluters, invariably the industrialised nations.

The perception that justice will be done once the big polluters make commensurate payments through the carbon market would appear to legitimise pollution, while seemingly appeasing the low-polluting and under-industrialised Africa.

Furthermore, I see no reassuring mechanism available in the current global order to oblige compliance by the big polluters.

I think Africa’s case will be better served through a more pragmatic approach. For instance, there is a good case for Africa’s development banks to enhance the financing of clean energy projects in the low-polluting African nations.

Such projects could be incentivised through friendly loans and repayment terms.

The pitch on the carbon market should also be toned down so as not to create an inordinate expectation for reparation by the low-polluting nations, and risk undermining their efforts to promote simple homegrown mitigation initiatives to reduce carbon emission, use clean and less energy.

Therefore, while the big polluters must continue working towards reducing emissions, low-polluting nations like Kenya should embrace practices suited to their circumstances.

Actors in the real estate and construction sectors come in quite handy in this regard. They could, for instance, ensure the development of residential, commercial and office units and spaces that minimise driving, and embrace designs adaptable to the use of clean energy such as solar, and which require minimum lighting during the day.

The construction of our rural and urban roads should provide for cycling and walking, to reduce the need to use vehicles.

Kenya, like many other African nations, is well placed to optimise the use of clean energy such as solar, hydro, wind and geothermal for domestic and light businesses.

However, industrialisation, which remains a major priority and may call for the use of fossil fuels, will need to be intensified provided we mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

We should be ready to buy carbon credits should our industrial expansion so dictate. The carbon credit hype mustn’t divert us from industrialising to grow our nascent economy.


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